Meet The Thwaitesia Spider Whose Mirrored Markings Resemble A Mosaic

By Kristy Rice Dec 1, 2016

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Stained glass and mirrored mosaics-even disco balls-may very well be a case of art imitating life based on the photography of Nicky Bay, who has been snapping pictures of what he's dubbed the Mirror Spider for years.
The spider's unique yet natural camouflage is not only awe-inspiring but functional. Nicky explains on his blog:
For several years, I have been observing the odd behavior of the Mirror Spider (Thwaitesia sp.) where the "silver-plates" on the abdomen seem to shrink when the spider is agitated (or perhaps threatened), revealing the actual abdomen. At rest, the silver plates expand and the spaces between the plates close up to become an almost uniform reflective surface. That is why I called it the Mirror Spider.
The plates themselves can change color as well. At times they appear silvery and mirrored but are able to transform, reflecting golden and stained-glass colors.
According to Robert Whyte, an honorary researcher at the Queensland Museum and the co-author of a field guide to Australian spiders, the camouflage acts, “Like a disco ball with lots of different mirrors,” and reflective splotches on this spider’s abdomen probably “scatter light and make it difficult for predators to see it.”
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Retired biologist Ron Atkinson explains, "This spider’s shimmery spots are probably crystalline deposits comprised of guanine, a waste product produced by gut cells called guanocytes."
Several spider families beyond the Thwaitesia species have similar markings and at least twenty one known species have the ability to rapidly change color using guanocytes.
While Atkinson claims that the spider's camouflage allows it to blend in to avoid predators, “Reflections from the [silver] plates may resemble those from droplets of water in the green vegetation and the colored bits of the spider could easily be confused with flower parts,” the presence of poison within the body of the mirror spider may suggest that its appearance works to warn predators of its toxicity in the same way that other poisonous creatures display bright colors.
Either way, the Thwaitesia spider isn't one you're likely to find in your backyard.
“There are several Thwaitesia in China and Vietnam, as well as one each in Myanmar and New Guinea,” adds Atkinson. “I am confident that more Thwaitesia species will be found and described in Southeast Asia in the near future.”
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So thank goodness for Nicky Bay and his dedication to photographing this amazing marvel of nature for our enjoyment.
Source: Prezi | Treehugger
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